Get to know the people behind your favorite university cinema in our new blog series, “Meet Your IU Cinema Staff.” Using the format of our exclusive filmmaker interviews — all of which can be found on our YouTube channel — we’ve crafted a questionnaire for our staff to help introduce them to you, our audience. For today’s profile, we have responses from our terrific technical coordinator, Seth Mutchler.
What is your job at IU Cinema?
I have been IU Cinema’s Technical Coordinator since 2019 but have a much longer IU Cinema history. I started out as a volunteer at our very first ever screening in 2011 and fell in love with the Cinema. I was hired as a house manager and promoted to Lead House Manager. When I started my graduate studies, I moved to the projection booth as a projectionist and then was hired for my current full-time position. As Technical Coordinator, I work with our Technical Director Elena Grassia on all things technological at the Cinema. Some of my responsibilities include working with distributors on film content shipping, creating Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) for the highest-quality presentation, developing and implementing special event technical procedures, and training and working with our amazing graduate projectionists.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
There are so many aspects of my job that I love, but one thing that always sparks joy is finessing a technical detail and getting it just right. A perfect example is the timing at the beginning of every IU Cinema event. As the drape rises and the music begins, the IU Cinema logo appears onscreen. I meticulously worked on that automation programming to make the drape unfold just in time to reveal the logo underneath, not a second too early nor too late. It might not be the most obvious thing, but I think those details are what make the Cinema so great and really bring me a lot of pride.
Of the IU Cinema events you’ve been a part of, do you have a favorite?
My favorite event was that first screening all the way back in January of 2011. I was a sophomore studying Film & Media Studies and heard from a professor about this new cinema opening soon. I signed up to volunteer usher and was given the opportunity to work the premiere film: The Bridge on the River Kwai. I had never been anywhere with such an intensely focused passion for the movies and had never been surrounded by so many people who shared my love for film. It might sound cheesy, but that screening changed my life and absolutely led to my current career in film exhibition.
Do you have a film experience that changed your life or direction?
There have been so many instrumental film experiences in my life that it’s hard to select just one. Honorable mentions go to being a kid and “borrowing” my brother’s VHS copy of Surf Nazis Must Die and finding a love for B-movies, waiting in line for 11 hours with my family before Star Wars: Episode III, and seeing Jill Godmilow’s What Farocki Taught at IU Cinema and having my entire conception of documentary film turned upside down. I think the most foundational experience, though, was when I was seventeen. I was, as many high schoolers are, completely without direction. I got turned onto Clerks, though, and after viewing the film about ten times I watched the making-of featurette. After seeing how Kevin Smith embraced the DIY ethos and made a film completely on his own and on his own terms, I decided that I too wanted to be a filmmaker. That path led me to enroll at IU, where I subsequently discovered the wonderful world of Film Studies, and then through IU Cinema found my love for film exhibition.
In terms of films and/or filmmakers, what or who inspires you?
I am inspired by a lot of the great independent filmmakers who make these wonderful films with little more than blood, sweat, and tears. I grew up watching ’90s indies, so particularly people like Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Jim Jarmusch, and the Coen Brothers. I am also, though, really inspired by gigantic action films, particularly the Marvel movies, of which I’m a huge fan. The fact that filmmakers like the Russo Brothers can create such expansive and epic works is incredibly inspiring and really helps me reach for the stars in my own art.
What do you hope audiences leave with after an IU Cinema event?
I really think it depends on the event. Sometimes I want audiences to leave a hard-hitting drama with empathy for somebody whose shoes they had never been in before. Other times, I want audiences to just leave with tears of laughter in their eyes after watching a hilarious comedy. I guess that mostly I just want people to leave with more than they started with, and that whatever it is they take away, it helps them for the rest of their lives.
What is the most powerful aspect of film as an art form?
Film can transport you to a whole other universe. When you’re watching a great movie, you stop seeing flashing images on a screen and start peering through a window to the world of the film. The characters become real, and the movie grabs hold of your emotions so that when the long-lost lovers are reunited or when the villain makes a startling reappearance, you feel it. No other art medium has quite as powerful an effect on me.
What would be your dream IU Cinema event or series?
My dream series would be a chance to present long-form television on the big screen. It’s hard to pick a specific title, because there are so many extraordinary shows and as a category they aren’t publicly exhibited. My selfish answer is Lost, which I know isn’t objectively the best choice but was a huge show for me growing up and I think benefited extraordinarily from having six seasons of screen time to explore. I think the theoretically correct answer is either The Wire or The Sopranos (although The Office would be a fun one, too).
What is the importance of having a place like the IU Cinema?
I think that IU Cinema is important because it provides collective experiences. I am as guilty as any of us that there are some nights when the comfort of watching Netflix on my couch is appealing, but I am always glad when I come watch a movie here at the Cinema. It’s those moments when we’re laughing together, crying together, shouting out in fear together, or even just being together that really remind me how important this place is.
Which of our IU Cinema exclusive filmmaker interviews is your favorite or is one that you’d recommend?
Oh, where to begin! There are so many: Jim Jarmusch, Ana Lily Amirpour, Penelope Spheeris, John Waters, DJ Spooky, Boots Riley, the list goes on. But when the overall objective quality is so high, you must go with emotion, and for me that’s Werner Herzog. I love it all, from his lullaby voice and speech patterns to his truly enigmatic character. I love how he takes each question and effortlessly flips it on its head with a simple “Not really…” (to be read in Herzog’s voice). His passion and his unique approach to filmmaking and to life is evident throughout. And of course, I absolutely love the way Herzog’s advice for young filmmakers is him repeating the word “read” twelve times in a row — music to my ears.